Welfare reform and housing associations: intended and unintended consequences?

The second report in the Federation’s impact assessment project is based on in-depth interviews with housing associations

29 April 2013

Welfare reform and housing associations – Intended and unintended consequences? is a Cambridge University case study survey based on in-depth interviews with 15 housing associations.

The headline findings from the report include:

  • Associations expect the main impact of welfare reform to be rising rent arrears. Housing associations are assuming a significant hit on their income and are altering their business plans to increase their bad debt provision to between twice and three times current levels.
  • Associations can live with welfare reform but they cannot do that and self-finance any large development programme. As the costs and pressures generated by welfare reform build, HAs will be forced to make strategic choices as the scale and type of development they undertake. There is a real tension between the Government’s ambition to reform welfare and its desire to see more housing output.
  • There is a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability as to how tenants will respond to the shortfall of housing benefit caused by the size criteria and to managing their rent payments themselves under Universal Credit.
  • There are general uncertainties because so many elements of welfare reform are taking place over the same period and there are concerns about the cumulative impact of these changes.
  • Organisations are looking to streamline their operations and to prioritise and focus their resources on rent collections and tenancy support. Some may step back from their wider community support programmes.
  • Some associations are looking to change the mix of new housing to be built, for example, by developing smaller homes in order to meet the changing demand arising from the size criteria, and avoiding housing larger families who would be affected by the household benefit cap and be unable to pay their rent.

Download the full report (pdf - opens in a new window)

Over the course of the next year, follow-up interviews will be conducted with the housing associations and tenants when the impact of changes are known and can be compared with the baseline these reports provide.

The research from this series of reports provides evidence for the concerns we and our members have been voicing since the changes were first proposed. Equipped with this information, we will be able to make a stronger case in our lobbying and public affairs work, highlighting the key issues in implementing the policy, and influencing future government thinking.